Popular Music Performance - BMus

UCAS Code:
Full Time (2 years)
September 2018

Our BMus Popular Music Performance is an accelerated two-year degree course specifically for guitarists, bassists, drummers, keyboard players and vocalists.

Delivered by our respected external partners, Access to Music, it is ideal if you harbour ambitions of being a freelance popular music performer or musician because we offer the essential training you need to work within the contemporary music industry.

It is aimed at students who have a wide range of musical backgrounds and experiences – but only the passionate need apply: this course aims to stretch your musical and technical abilities. We want to get the very best out of you as a performer on this demanding, yet exciting, vocational training course.

You’ll be based in the city’s burgeoning creative quarter, close to the Custard Factory in Digbeth, where you’ll be immersed in Birmingham’s exciting creative surroundings and have plenty of opportunities to meet and network with those in similar sectors.

And because this is an accelerated two-year course, you’ll save money on tuition fees and have all the academic knowledge and practical skills you would expect to gain from a three-year degree course.

What's covered in the course?

This course will help you to hone your performing skills and develop your business acumen in what is a very competitive industry.

You’ll develop your technical and interpretative skills in your chosen instrument, look at compositional techniques and gain an understanding of industry-specific technology skills that you need to succeed.

You’ll also build up your performance aptitude, examining such areas as songwriting, musicianship, composition and arrangement, plus we’ll take you through the business side of working in the music industry, including entrepreneurship and business projects.

The course is delivered from the Heath Mill Studios in Digbeth, not far from Birmingham City University’s City Centre Campus. You’ll have access to state-of-the-art digital equipment, including a full suite of Apple Mac computers, a media suite, and work stations, and learn from leading music industry practitioners and lecturers who have considerable live performance experience across the popular, contemporary music genre.

“I have met some wonderful people and have been inspired by the tutors and fellow musicians. I feel more knowledgeable than I ever thought I could be.” Lloyd Daker, Graduate 2015

Why Choose Us?

  • Students are satisfied with this course! We scored 92 per cent for overall satisfaction in the National Student Survey 2017.
  • Delivered four days per week over six 15-week trimesters (45 weeks per year for two years), this accelerated course is a compact, comprehensive study, giving you invaluable practical experience.
  • Because this is an accelerated two-year course, you’ll save money on tuition fees and have all the academic knowledge and practical skills you would expect to gain from a three-year degree course.
  • You’ll learn from leading music industry practitioners who work in key areas of the music industry.
  • Tutors and lecturers are working professionals in the music industry and can offer invaluable support and guidance.
  • You’ll work on projects that enable you to experience what it is really like to create music industry ventures.
  • Meet students from all over the world as this course is popular with international students.
  • The course will enable you to explore the effect of new technologies on the creative industries and you’ll use technology to develop your business ideas.
  • You’ll feel fully part of Birmingham City University’s vibrant and colourful student community, with facilities and services to hand.

Visit our open day

Open Days

The date for the next Open Day for Access to Music will be announced soon.

Access to Music Open Days

To welcome all new home and EU undergraduate degree students starting in 2017 or 2018, we're giving at least £150 worth of credit to spend in a host of ways, on books and a range of learning materials. Even better, it doesn’t have to be repaid.

Find out more

This course is open to International students

Birmingham School of Media

Discover Access to Music Birmingham

This Access to Music course is delivered at Heath Mill Studios, Digbeth, Birmingham.

Find out more

Entry Requirements

UK students

You will need to have four passes at GCSE, including mathematics and English language. You should also have or expect to gain one of the following:


A level (A2) passes in two subjects (or two Scottish Advanced Highers)

Rockschool Level 3 Music Practitioner qualification

National Diploma in a music-related subject

Applicants with non-standard qualifications and/or experience are encouraged to apply and will be considered if they can demonstrate appropriate ability through their audition and interview.

You will also be interviewed as part of the selection process.

Interviews / Auditions

You will be interviewed / auditioned by the Course Director, together with one member of instrumental/vocal staff. Sessions will last about 45 minutes and will take the following format:


Introductions/set up

Recital programme to last between 10-12 minutes (3 pieces) demonstrating a range of techniques through a varied choice of music

Musicianship test – including; aural tests – interval/chord recognition, playing back rhythm/chord progressions, theoretical knowledge – harmony, rhythm, tonality, technique – playing scales /rudiments/technical exercises.

Interview on academic, professional and personal qualities, and intentions for progression supported by portfolio of work (including CDs, DVDs, photos, press etc)

You should provide your own backing tracks on an MP3 player - the College will not provide an accompanist. Equipment available at the audition includes: five piece drum kit with cymbals, stage piano, guitar amp, bass amp, PA system

You should complete the reply proforma, which you can download from the Interview Information section on the Access to Music website

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
BMus Sep 2018 FT 2 years TBC

International Students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
BMus Sep 2018 FT 2 years TBC

The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament.

Guidance for UK/EU students


UK and EU students applying for most undergraduate degree courses in the UK will need to apply through UCAS.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a UK organisation responsible for managing applications to university and college. You can apply until 30 June.

Applying through UCAS
 Register with UCAS
 Login to UCAS
 Complete your details
 Select your course
 Write a personal statement
 Get a reference
 Pay your application fee
 Send UCAS your application

Non-EU (International) students

There are three ways to apply:

1) Direct to the University

You will need to complete our International Application Form and Equal Opportunities Form, and submit them together with scan copies of your original academic transcripts and certificates.

2) Through a country representative

Our in-country representatives can help you make your application and apply for a visa. They can also offer advice on travel, living in the UK and studying abroad.

3) Through UCAS

If you are applying for an undergraduate degree or a Higher National Diploma (HND), you can apply through the UK’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

You can request a printed form from your school or nearest British Council office. You will be charged for applying through UCAS. Birmingham City University’s UCAS code is B25 BCITY.

Personal statement

UK / EU students are required to submit a personal statement as part of their application for this course.*

The personal statement gives you a crucial opportunity to say why you’re applying and why the institution should accept you.

Here are the key areas you’ll need to address:

Course choice

Why does this course appeal? What areas are of particular interest?

Career plans

If you have a specific career in mind, say how your chosen course will help you pursue this goal.

Work experience

Mention any work that is relevant to your subject, highlighting the skills and experience gained.

School or college experience

Highlight skills gained at school/college, eg summer schools or mentoring activities.

Non-accredited skills or achievement

eg Duke of Edinburgh Award, Young Enterprise scheme.

You should also mention your future plans – if you’re planning to take a year out, don't forget to give your reasons. Talk about any subjects you’re studying that don’t have a formal assessment and any sponsorships or placements you’ve applied for. And don't be scared to add in details about your social, sports or leisure interests.

Get more information on writing personal statements.

*Non-EU students are not required to submit a personal statement when applying for this course.

Sorry, this course is not available part-time

Worried about personal statements?

Worried about personal statements?

If you've got no idea where to start or just want to check you're on the right track, we’ve got expert advice and real examples from our students to help you nail your personal statement. You can even download our ultimate personal statement guide for free.

Get personal statement advice

Loans and Grants

Financial Support

We offer further information on possible undergraduate financial support. This includes the type of loans, grants and scholarships available both from the government and from Birmingham City University.


Instrumental Skills
90 credits

This module will see you exploring the multi-stylistic components of your chosen instrument so that you can expand and create your repertoire. You’ll also focus on the command of your instrument, as well as performance presentation and communication skills. You’ll also be encouraged to develop and refine a routine to set goals and reflect on your development.

Ensemble Skills
90 credits

In this module, you’ll develop your abilities to rehearse and perform well within a popular music ensemble. You’ll also develop your skills and confidence so that you can integrate music technology into your performance, and focus on developing your arranging and musical direction skills. This module presents real opportunities for you to develop, create, and perform new music, with new people.

90 credits

This aims to hone your appreciation of practical and theoretical musical knowledge, while developing your instrumental skills. You’ll study popular music theory, sight-reading, arranging, songwriting, composing and the application of software (DAW) within the popular music genre.

Music Industry
90 credits

You’ll examine the music industry, giving you detailed insight into the sector. This will give you the knowledge and confidence to work as a freelance performer. You’ll focus on a wide range of topics, including: The Anatomy of the Music Industry; The Popular Musician in Society; Marketing and eCommerce; and Entrepreneurship in the Music Industry.

Course structure

Our BMus Popular Music Performance is a fast-paced course that is studied over two years, with lectures, sessions and tutorials held four days per week over six, 15-week terms. The aim of the course is to prepare you for a career as a freelance musician or performer, so you’ll learn about how to succeed in the industry and you’ll expand your abilities as a solo performer and learn how to work within an ensemble.

We offer a range of sessions and masterclasses with virtuoso practitioners from across the popular music spectrum, including live and studio performers, plus studio and production engineers. Recent speakers have included the Jamiroquai rhythm section, and singer-songwriter, Emily Mcguire.

You’ll take both written and practical exams, although the emphasis is on practical assessment.

Study and work abroad

If you are interested in undertaking part of your studies abroad, the Erasmus scheme may be of interest to you. It allows higher education students to study for part of their degree in another European country.

It is open to undergraduates in their second year (or above) and offers a unique opportunity to enhance your CV and experience new cultures. If you study with us you will have access to an Erasmus co-ordinator, who can provide information about which institutions we have links with.

Find out more

Further study

Once you have attained your BMus qualification, you could continue your studies. Options include PGCE to train as a teacher or other postgraduate courses such as an MA or MMus. If you are interested in furthering your academic qualifications, talk to your course tutor, who will advise you on next steps.

Enhancing employability skills

This course gives you the transferable skills that will help you to develop and thrive in the dynamic and fast-paced music industry.

By the time you graduate, you’ll have the confidence, knowledge and contacts that will help you start or develop your career as a musician or performer. You’ll have developed entrepreneurial skills and will understand how the popular music industry works, giving you the best chance of carving a career in this incredibly competitive field.

Graduates of this course have gone on to be professional performers and musicians.


We encourage students to accept and support opportunities which result in a broadening of experiences. Recent placements have included Good Soldier Songs.

More about our placement opportunities...


OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.


BCU Graduate+

Through our courses we give you the skills and experience needed to get a head start when applying for jobs. But we offer something extra too – Graduate+.

Our unique programme gives you the chance to develop valuable skills outside of the more formal classroom learning. We award points for Graduate+ activities (including firewalking!) and these can be put towards a final Graduate+ award.

More about Graduate+

Graduate jobs

This course is aimed at those who want to become a professional performer or musician. Our graduates have gone on to work in the industry and are pursuing successful careers in their chosen musical fields.

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

The UK remains one of the world's leading study destinations

The UK remains one of the world's leading study destinations for international students.

The first-class experience offered by universities are reflected in the world’s largest survey of international students. International students are more likely to recommend the UK than any other leading English-language study destination.

Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC)

International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.


BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.

Learn more about BCUIC


We are constantly investing in our estate and are currently in the process of spending £260 million on new learning facilities.

You’ll be based at the Heath Mill Studios, which are in the creative sector in Digbeth, close to the famous Custard Factory.

Our purpose-built ground-floor studios have six fully equipped band rehearsal rooms, complete with drum kits, guitar and bass amps, PAs and digital recorders, a 24-track digital recording studio with two control rooms plus a large performance space.

There are also two Apple Mac technology suites, a media suite and several production pods.

Because this course is delivered on a split site basis, you’ll also have access to some of the city’s best environments to facilitate your learning, including The Mushrooms, a purpose-built studio complex that is used for rehearsals for studio recording, and The Muthers Studio, which is a recording and rehearsal studio, as well as a social space for bands.

You’ll have at your disposal the state-of-the-art facilities at Birmingham City University’s City Centre Campus and work alongside students studying on our sister BA (Hons) Music Business course.

Staff introduction

The course director, P. A. Francis’ work and research in the area of Popular music performance includes the publications Concept – Drum and Bass: for tomorrow’s rhythm section and Grooves for Guitar (Huddersfield University Press). In the final stages of a PhD, he continues work as a freelance performer, composer, and producer, incorporating a variety of performance settings. This is coupled with his contribution to the growing research within popular music performance within higher education, both nationally and internationally. Notable achievements include TV and film appearances, as well as both stage and studio sessions with many internationally-renowned musicians whose credits include, BB King, Paul McCartney, Ray Charles, BBC Big Band, and Amy Winehouse.

Module leader Jamie Brewster is a Bass player and successful musician who has played across the contemporary music spectrum, including jazz, rock and funk. He works with instrumental jazz funk project Endangered Species Band and Manchester Harmony Gospel Choir and has shared stages with Marcus Miller and Biffy Clyro.

Sue Wilson-Quin is a veteran professional vocalist, having worked in the music industry nationally and internationally for more than 20 years. She is a highly experienced and successful session singer and has worked with a range of stars, including Gloria Estefan. Sue works regularly with leading saxophonist Snake Davis as well as rock band, Sad Café, and is an accomplished instrumentalist, songwriter, vocal coach, and teacher.

Paul Foad is a guitarist whose professional music career spans both performance and education. An original member of seminal post-punk band The Au Pairs, Paul went on to join experimental Birmingham music commune 'End Of Chat', before being invited to join critically acclaimed jazz/calypso band Andy Hamilton and the Blue Notes.

UK prospective students:

UK enquiry form

+44 (0)121 331 5595

EU / International prospective students:

International enquiry form

+44 (0)121 331 5389

Already applied?

Contact the admissions team

+44 (0)121 331 6295